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Coral reef restoration at Amaya Kuda Rah Maldives

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Known internationally as one of the world’s best scuba diving destinations, Maldives has an abundance of dive sites with a unique underwater beauty to explore. The islands of the Maldives have consistently warm waters with outstanding visibility throughout the year, and consist of exhilarating dive sites such as vibrant thilas, exciting channels, coral-filled overhangs and fascinating wrecks.

Maldives’ world-renowned coral reefs play a fundamental role in food production, shoreline protection, and tourism revenue, but ocean plastic threatens the survival of shallow coral reefs. Preservation of the reefs has become more important than ever.

In 1998, a severe El Niño event resulted in unusually warm waters (3-4 °C) above normal. This caused a mass bleaching and die off of Maldivian coral reefs.

Just as recovery reached its peak, another El Niño hit. The 2015-2016 El Niño weather phenomena and associated sea surface temperature anomalies in 2016 caused one of the largest recorded episodes of mass bleaching in the Maldives. A subsequent survey of 71 sites across the Maldives conducted by IUCN found that 73 per cent of corals had undergone bleaching, indicating a severe bleaching event.

Being one of the new additions to the vast collection of resorts in the pristine South Ari Atoll, Amaya Kuda Rah Maldives had embarked on a project to restore the surrounding coral reef, which was also affected as a result of the 2016 El Niño. On acquiring the resort in mid-2016, Hayleys PLC of Sri Lanka realised the important role the island’s reef played in protecting the surrounding natural habitat. The resort partnered with Reefscapers Maldives, and commenced a coral conservation and regeneration project in March 2017.

“With the personal commitment and initiative taken by our Chairman towards this project, we introduced their artificial coral frame reef system, which have been placed successfully since the year 2001 in several resorts in Maldives. The shape of the frames reduced coral predation and sedimentation and provided a suitable substrate on to which coral could grow. In addition Reefscapers also conducts awareness training to the resort team during their visits to increase awareness and taking ownership as well on our commitment,” Michael Armstrong, the General Manager at Amaya Kuda Rah Maldives, said.

The coral frames are designed and made on the local island of Fulhadhoo in Baa atoll — a unique opportunity, started by Reefscapers Maldives, that provides employment for several local people and allows them to develop skills outside of traditional fishing. The transplantation process involves attaching coral fragments onto the metal frame, which grow and mature into new colonies. The fragments are collected from broken natural reef corals, and later harvested from own mature coral frames for the “second generation”.

In 2017, the first frames were placed on the north-east side of the reef, and the growth rate has been amazing! In just two-three weeks, the coral fragments have attached themselves onto the frame. Two months later, new coral growth was evident and fish had moved in.

Throughout the year, Amaya Kuda Rah Maldives’ on-property dive centre oversees the project. For every frame, the team at Divepoint Maldives follows a strict monitoring process, taking regular photographs of the coral growth, and identifying the marine life that starts to colonise the frames. By propagating the most successful species, the team is developing ever-more resistant coral offspring, better adapted to withstand higher sea water temperatures and so help the reefs in their fight against global warming.

“The positive impact of the project has been seen over the past couple of years in the surrounding reef, as well as for the guest experience whilst snorkelling, due to the increase in the number of several fish species brought on by the new coral habitat provided by the coral farm. The ongoing work will surely enhance the guest experience further by providing a better snorkelling experience of the reef surrounding the resort island,” Armstrong said.

Exactly two years since its inception in March 2017, the project has advanced into the second phase. With additional funding from Hayleys PLC and its subsidiary Amaya Resorts, more coral frames are being placed along the western side of the island, which will bring the number of frames submerged around the Kuda Rah island to over 70 in the coming months. The resort has plans to add even more frames to several other areas, including its main dive point and around the water villas.

The programme is also now open to sponsorship. Guests can choose the size of frame and, if they like, dedicate it to someone special or put their own name on it. The Divepoint team will build the personalised coral frame and add it to the reef ecosystem. Sponsors will receive bi-annual photo updates of their coral frame via Reefscapers’ website. Proceeds from each frame go into an environmental fund established by the resort to support its marine conservation research programmes and community initiatives.

Coral reefs are invaluable to the fishing and tourism industry — two major economic activities in the Maldives. They protect the shoreline from storm damage and help manage carbon dioxide levels. However, 60 per cent of the world’s coral reefs are estimated to be threatened due to human activity. The full extent of damage sustained by the 2016 El Niño is still unknown!

Artificial reef projects have become an invaluable tool for restoring reefs and nurturing the damaged reefs back to health. With its ambitious initiative, Amaya Kuda Rah Maldives is leading by example.

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Earth, space camp adventures at COMO Maalifushi, COMO Cocoa Island this Summer

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This summer, COMO Hotels and Resorts’ two Maldives properties are offering a unique and exciting line-up of activities designed to inspire and educate all ages. From an exhilarating Space Camp with astronaut-led adventures, to an immersive Earth Camp exploring the natural wonders at COMO Maalifushi, and the exploring the captivating universe under the ocean at COMO Cocoa Island.

Island Astronauts Return To Maldives: Space Camp at COMO Maalifushi

Join us for an unforgettable galactic quest from August 5th to 14th, 2024, at COMO Maalifushi, led by American astronaut Nicole Stott and space advisor Christina Korp. Inspiring for both children and adults, this Space Camp offers a unique blend of adventure and education through art, food, and movement.

Our immersive Space Camp features a fun-filled itinerary of complimentary space-themed island activities for ages up to, ensuring every moment is packed with excitement and learning. All camp activities are complimentary for children aged four to 16.

  • Postcards to Space: Participate in Nicole Stott’s “Postcards to Space” project by creating postcards with artwork and messages about your hopes and dreams. These postcards will be sent to space and returned to you with a “flown in space” stamp.
  • Spacesuit Art: Contribute to “Quilted,” a collaborative art project with children from around the world by adding your unique touch to a spacesuit.
  • Blast Off: Build your own rocket from recycled materials and launch it high into the sky for a thrilling blast off!
  • Protect Our Planet: Discover the impact of human activity on our planet from a space perspective, followed by a beach clean-up on a neighbouring island.
  • Galactic Gastronomy: Enjoy a stellar dinner under the stars, hosted by Nicole Stott. Hear about her adventures aboard the International Space Station while savouring a specially crafted menu.

Island Warriors: Earth Camp at COMO Maalifushi

From July to August 2024, younger guests can join us for a journey through the wonders of the natural world, on land and under the sea. Enjoy educational activities exploring everything from marine biology to traditional crafts, fun-filled fitness workshops, treasure hunts on our castaway island, and more.

Take advantage of our exclusive Family Getaway Offer when you book a stay of five nights or more for Space and Earth Camp. Adults will receive daily half board and complimentary full-board and seaplane transfers for two children (under the age of 12).

Universe Under The Ocean: COMO Cocoa Island

From August 16th to 17th, 2024, dive into the depths of the ocean with NASA astronaut and aquanaut Nicole Stott at COMO Cocoa Island. Experience the ocean through a guided reef dive, learn about the rigorous training astronauts undergo, and enjoy a specially curated menu shared beneath the stars.

Join us for these extraordinary experiences and let your imagination soar beyond the stars!

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Patina Maldives invites guests to embark on journey of artistry with Clay Studio partnership

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Patina Maldives, renowned for its seamless blend of luxury, nature and artistic expression, has announced an exclusive collaboration with Clay Studio, the premier ceramics hub in the Maldives. The unique partnership brings a series of engaging and creative pottery experiences to guests of all ages, offering an enriching addition to their island stay.

Starting on 1 June, Patina Maldives invites guests to embark on a creative with Clay Studio, where they can explore the therapeutic and artistic world of ceramics. This collaboration offers a variety of immersive pottery classes that cater to both novice and experienced artisans.

Wheel Throwing Experience Taster Class

Guests can discover the soothing rhythm of shaping and molding clay in this engaging session. Perfect for unwinding and tapping into their artistic side, this class offers a hands-on introduction to the art of wheel throwing.

Hand Building Experience Taster Class

Participants will enjoy the intimate and expressive art of hand-building pottery. This class provides greater creative freedom, allowing them to craft intricate, personal designs that reflect their unique artistic vision.

Paint A Pot

Guests can unleash their creativity by transforming pre-made clay items into unique masterpieces. This session invites participants to paint their imagination onto cups, trinket dishes, and more.

Kids Clay Studio

Designed for young artists, this class nurtures creativity and imagination through fun, hands-on activities. Children develop fine motor skills and sensory awareness as they create their own unique pieces.

Couple Wheel Throwing Date

Couples can experience a romantic and unique activity in a private setting. This special session offers personalised instruction, making it memorable and intimate experience.

Guests can also enjoy personalised attention and exclusive guidance through private sessions. Ideal for families or couples seeking a bespoke experience, private classes are tailored to meet individual interest and skill levels.

Patina Maldives honours itself on offering extraordinary experiences that blend art, nature, community and connection. This collaboration with Clay Studio is a testament to the resort’s commitment to providing guests with sophisticated and fresh experiences that reveal new layers of possibility and inspiration.

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Utheemu Ganduvaru: Portal to Maldives’ national freedom

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The Maldives, often celebrated for its sun-kissed beaches and turquoise waters, also offers a rich tapestry of history and culture waiting to be explored. Among the islands of Haa Alif Atoll lies Utheemu Island, home to Utheemu Ganduvaru, a historical treasure that invites travellers to delve into the storied past of the archipelago.

Utheemu Ganduvaru, the ancestral home of Muhammad Thakurufaanu, stands as a poignant reminder of the Maldives’ fight for independence. Thakurufaanu, revered as a national hero, led a successful campaign against Portuguese occupation in the 16th century. His childhood home, Utheemu Ganduvaru, offers a rare glimpse into the life and times of this legendary figure.

In 1558, the Portuguese invaded the Maldives, killing the Sultan in battle and establishing their rule. Muhammad Thakurufaanu and his brothers, Ali and Hassan, left for Minicoy to prepare a campaign to liberate their country. The boat they built, Kalhuohfummi, was crucial to their efforts. Thakurufaanu and his brothers fought the Portuguese for eight years, landing on different islands under cover of night to evade capture, and departing before daybreak. Eventually, they landed in Malé and defeated the Portuguese leadership in the capital. Freed from Portuguese rule, the people chose Muhammad Thakurufaanu as their Sultan.

Sultan Muhammad Thakurufaanu ruled the Maldives for 12 years until his death in 1585. He is remembered as a considerate and just ruler, concerned for the well-being of even the poorest citizens. He is also credited with establishing the country’s first formal military unit.

Back at Utheemu Island, visitors are immediately struck by the island’s tranquil beauty and its lush, green landscape. The journey to Utheemu Ganduvaru is a step back in time, where the echoes of history are palpable. The residence itself, a traditional wooden palace, is meticulously preserved, showcasing the architectural ingenuity and cultural richness of the period.

As you enter Utheemu Ganduvaru, the simplicity and elegance of the structure are apparent. Built from timber, the palace is a fine example of traditional Maldivian craftsmanship. The intricate woodwork, with its detailed carvings and polished surfaces, speaks volumes about the artisanship that flourished during Thakurufaanu’s time.

The main hall, with its open layout and cool, shaded interiors, offers a sense of serenity and reflection. It was within these walls that Thakurufaanu spent his formative years, and each room tells a story of his early life and the influences that shaped his destiny. The residence includes living quarters and storage spaces, all arranged in a manner that reflects the daily life of a prominent Maldivian family in the 16th century.

One of the most compelling aspects of Utheemu Ganduvaru is its connection to the larger narrative of Maldivian resistance against foreign rule. Guides at the site often recount tales of Thakurufaanu’s daring exploits and strategic brilliance. His knowledge of the archipelago’s intricate waterways and his leadership in naval battles are celebrated as key factors in the successful expulsion of the Portuguese in 1573.

Beyond its historical significance, Utheemu Ganduvaru offers visitors a deeper understanding of Maldivian culture and heritage. The site is a testament to the resilience and unity of the Maldivian people, embodying values that continue to inspire. For travellers, a visit to Utheemu Ganduvaru is an opportunity to connect with the soul of the Maldives, experiencing the essence of its history and the spirit of its people.

While on Utheemu Island, visitors can explore other points of interest, such as the island’s beaches and vibrant local community. Engaging with the locals offers additional insights into Maldivian traditions and hospitality, enriching the overall experience.

For those seeking a journey through time, Utheemu Ganduvaru in Haa Alif Atoll is a destination that should not be missed. It is a place where the past comes alive, where the legacy of a hero continues to resonate, and where the true essence of the Maldives can be discovered. As you walk through the halls of Utheemu Ganduvaru, you are not just a visitor; you are a part of a historical journey that defines the Maldivian identity.

So, when planning your next visit to the Maldives, venture beyond the beaches and dive into the rich history of these islands. Let Utheemu Ganduvaru be the highlight of your cultural exploration, offering a meaningful and memorable connection to the heart of Maldivian heritage.

Cover photo: Andreas Faessler

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